Chicago News Guild ratifies new three-year contract with Sun-Times

Chicago Sun-Times (March 2, 2020)

The union representing editorial employees at the Chicago Sun-Times has approved a three-year contract extension that includes substantial raises and efforts to improve racial and gender diversity in the newsroom.

The new agreement, announced today, is retroactive to September when the previous contract expired. Members of the Sun-Times unit of the Chicago News Guild ratified the deal unanimously last week.

Raises totaling 5.6 percent by 2021 will bring the annual salary of a reporter with five or more years of experience to a minimum of $69,783, according to a joint announcement. In the entire previous decade, Sun-Times journalists had received a single raise of only 2 percent.

Chicago Sun-Times, Sun-Times Guild

A highlight of the agreement is establishment of a website — believed to be the first in the Chicago area if not the country — that discloses in real time the racial and gender makeup of every department in the newsroom. (Here is the link.) At least one woman or member of a traditionally underrepresented group, including black, Latino, Asian American, Native and LGBTQ journalists, will be interviewed for every newsroom job opening, according to a plan approved by the Sun-Times and Guild. The Sun-Times and Guild said they also will form a committee to identify and recruit qualified journalists from underrepresented groups.

“This agreement represents a step forward for the Sun-Times and the hard-working journalists who make our newspaper a powerful voice in this city,” Nader Issa, a Sun-Times reporter and co-chair of the Sun-Times Guild, said in a statement. “We’re optimistic about what lies ahead for the paper, and we’re looking forward to continuing our work with Sun-Times management to build a bright and sustainable future. We’re especially proud of our provisions that strengthen the way we approach recruiting, hiring, and retaining women and journalists of color.”

The news follows an agreement in December to extend the Sun-Times’s printing and distribution agreement with the parent company of the Chicago Tribune. Earlier last year the ownership of the Sun-Times reorganized with Chicago investors Michael Sacks and Rocky Wirtz providing an influx of capital and taking control of the company from a consortium of labor unions.

Chris Fusco

“I’m glad we were able to work with the Guild to build a framework for future growth of the Sun-Times, especially in light of the critical role that regional newspapers have played — and must continue to play — in informing citizens and holding power accountable,” said Chris Fusco, editor-in-chief of the Sun-Times and a member of the company’s negotiating team.

“I’m particularly grateful to our newspaper’s ownership for recognizing the quality journalists we have in our newsroom and the quality journalism they produce. The Sun-Times is by no means immune to newspaper industry headwinds, but this agreement is a vote of confidence that we can overcome them together for the good of our city and region.”

The relative peace and stability at the Sun-Times lies in contrast to the Chicago Tribune, which has been roiling in recent months following the emergence of New York-based hedge fund Alden Global Capital as Tribune Publishing’s largest stockholder.

A boardroom shakeup of corporate leadership and companywide staff reductions through buyouts as a precursor to layoffs preceded the ouster last week of Bruce Dold as publisher and editor-in-chief of the Chicago Tribune, and Peter Kendall as managing editor.

Just as the threat looms of further massive cuts from Alden Global Capital, negotiations finally opened in February on a first contract for editorial employees of the Tribune — two years after they’d won won bargaining rights for the Chicago Tribune Guild.

Saturday’s comment of the day: Carol Marin: You are a rock star, Tom [Skilling]. Now you’ll just be a more svelte version!❤️